HELP! MY HAIR IS FALLING OUT.

 

And not for the first time. This is the third time and I know that it is now a permanent loss.

The first time this happened, I was living in Hong Kong. My hair was naturally brown but I had been a blonde for a long time. When a fancy new hair salon opened in Kowloon I just had to try it. At that time Asians and Blacks were not able to straighten or dye their hair as they do today. The most daring could, at best, change their black hair to a coppery brown. I was aware that Asian hair is a lot coarser than Caucasian hair but this thought eluded me when I checked into the Shisheido Salon on Nathan Road.

After thirty minutes of being capped with blue gunk I became anxious and called to the prettily uniformed stylist to wash it out. Even though I spoke a smattering of Japanese and this girl spoke a smattering of English, I could not communicate my sense of urgency. Finally, and too late, she led me to the wash basin to shampoo the stuff out. Watching my hair float down the drain was devastating.

Baldness has not enhanced any entertainer’s stage presence…except, maybe, the Irish singer, Sinead O’Connor. I lost my complacency but no-one seemed to share my distress at the result of their service. Swaddled in head scarves, I hired a lawyer to sue them but it was a huge hassle. Finally we agreed that the salon would pay for the wig that I was forced to wear for the next six months. To an energetic dancer who tosses her head while performing, a wig was a less than desirable solution.

Cosmeticians have learned a thing or two since then and there are now millions of blonde, big-busted, Japanese girls with surgically altered eyes roaming the globe. I don’t see any Caucasion women having their breasts removed and their eyes slanted so I blame this trend all on those high-flying, cashed-up Japanese men who frequent the many Japanese clubs along the Ginza. The big money for foreign performers has dwindled, much to the delight of the Dance hostesses who always hated us. And the added bonus for the drooling patrons is that whereas with the foreigners it was “Look but don’t touch” the hostesses have never been averse to a touch or two… even though previously there was not much to touch.

Many years later, after I had sewn my wild oats and settled down to motherhood, I lost my hair for a second time. This time it was due to cancer. I was prepared for my still blonde locks to fall out after chemo. I was not prepared for it to fall out quite so soon – within a week of my first dose, in fact. I well remember the day I climbed out of my car after visiting the grocery store. Huge clumps hair stuck to the head rest, giving me a nasty jolt. Upset, I tugged on the remaining hair and yanked out another handful or two. There was only one thing to do. I ran inside and chopped the remainder off as fast as possible. If it had to go – I wanted to be in control.

So again my hair grew back but it was never the same. Whereas it used to be thick, it was now thin, white and curly. Over time the curls disappeared as the last remnants of chemo left my body but the volume never came back. My mother used to admonish “It’s all the damage you did by dying your hair for years.” She may have been partly right but I never would agree. She had been against me doing anything as immoral as dying my hair from the time I first started while very young.

And now many more years later still, I am stuck with this hateful thin hair. This is a natural part of aging, I know. But I am a vain woman and I fight aging tooth and nail. Thankfully, so far God has been good to me in this battle and I am remarkably free of many aging signs and ailments.

Some people tell me that I must grow old gracefully but I think that is all a load of bull. I don’t consider vanity a bad trait and I find it synonymous with pride. Not everyone uses Botox or pays $300 for a jar of face cream but I say, ‘Why not?’ Most have their teeth capped and/or whitened and I see no difference.

So now, here is the dilemma; as I am a vain woman and my hair is not going to grow back this time, what is the answer? I have always worn hats almost daily. That is not a cover-up. I love hats. But now, apart from a fashion statement, they also hide the fact that my hair is thin. I never lie about my age but I DON’T want to look my age. Judge me if you will!

Wigs are an alternative but they are hot in summer and itch the skin. I don’t do as much head tossing these days but even so, if I accidentally drank too much, there is the possibility one could fly off. These things always happen at the most inopportune moments, don’t they?

Well I don’t lie awake at night worrying about this but I am open to answers. Got any?

Panhandlers – Street-bums – Hitch-hikers. To be pitied, scorned, or none of the aforementioned.

How do you react when approached by one of the above? It’s not an easy question to answer because they seem to come in many-layered categories.

As for me, before retiring to anonymity on my mountain top where there are no such people, I seemed to come into contact with many. Actually, I seemed to attract them – hobos and drunks.

Digressing for a moment to the drunks, I recall a time when my very conservative, dairy-farmer mother came to visit me in Seattle. She was accompanied by my sister who is 21 years my junior and was then extremely shy. While I was taking them on a bus trip to Vancouver, Canada, a drunken African-American knelt in the aisle of the bus, singing loudly to me and inadvertently spitting on me the whole way. My mother and sister looked pointedly out of the window, distancing themselves from me. I always try to look on the bright side -he DID have a nice voice. However, I was thankful when we reached our destination and he left us once I rejected his offer of marriage.

My mother sighed with relief and we walked the streets of Vancouver, lost, and looking for someone to give us directions. I approached a neatly dressed gentleman and asked him to help. He immediately went into a paroxysm of unintelligible sounds, eye rolling and arm-waving, which frightened my mother and sister and didn’t help me. Still lost, I soon  attracted yet another drunk(?) who then persisted in following us. My mother and sister had, by that time, had enough and would no longer walk with me. I can only assume I have an ‘approachable’ face.

Now back to the beggars asking for money or those merely thumbing a ride. I think I first started picking up hitch-hikers when I lived in Alaska. The winters there are dark and cold. I was managing a trucking company at Fox, a few miles outside of Fairbanks. Thousands of workers had flocked to Alaska to work on the Trans-Alaska pipeline which was under construction. They were not all savory characters and my husband became furious each time he learned I had picked up a hitch-hiker. But how do you pass someone in the frozen wilderness?

Vignettes tumble through my mind.

There was the grubby-looking young man sitting on the steps of the South Seattle post office. He was not begging. His head was in his hands and he looked so dejected. My twelve year old adopted son from India was sitting in the pick-up, waiting for me, as I went to collect the mail.

“Are you alright?” I asked the man. He nodded and I passed by.

When I returned, he was waiting. “Could you buy me a cup of coffee?” he asked.

As the man went on his way, I climbed back into the pick-up.

“Why did you speak to that man?” my son asked.

“Because he is a human being.” I replied.

Another vignette;

That same son was with me when I closed up Diamond Lil’s, my shop/tea-room, in downtown Seattle. We were going to the Chinese Restaurant next door to have dinner.

There were two young men sitting on the pavement with their backs against the wall.

“We are hungry.” One said “Could you spare us some money?”

I looked at them. They were clean shaven and were wearing Nike shoes.

“No.” I said and passed by.

Inside the restaurant my son and I began to eat our meal. My conscience was ruining my appetite. Those two boys had not looked like street kids. Probably having a week-end in the city – spent their money and couldn’t get home. Didn’t look as if they had been on the streets long but maybe they were hungry. I ordered two more meals-to-go and carried them outside to the grateful boys. My own food tasted better after that.

Am I a sucker??? That particular son has grown into a ‘soft touch’. When I try to warn him, he says ” You taught me, Mum.”

Back in Australia, my youngest son, Chip, and I were driving out in the country when we saw an old farmer walking along the ride and not a house to be seen for miles. It was a terribly hot day. Not until he climbed into the car did I realize he had dementia and he had poo’d his pants. We were so pleased when we could unload him but we had to keep the windows open for weeks.

Again in Australia, driving back to our motel, we saw a strange young man walking in the rain. His odd dress contained feathers, skulls and metal billy cans. Despite his appalling appearance, I stopped. After ascertaining he seemed harmless I told him to climb him in. We took him back to our motel where I ordered him to take a shower while we waited for pizza to arrive. After dinner he drew us some rather clever cartoons while we waited for the rain to abate and he went happily on his way. My son later told me he had been scared at first.

I realize I have placed myself in harm’s way on occasion and I thank God that he has always kept me protected.

There are many incidents. I could bore you by going on and on. I seem to have been afflicted with this inability to pass on by and mind my own business. Fortunately I am no longer given these opportunities on this serene mountain top.

I will finish with one last vignette that remains with me. It happened In India about five years ago. My youngest son and I were on a train. At every train stop, peddlers jumped aboard and quickly passed down the aisle, selling chai and fruit or snacks. One very old man came on. He was blind, and a ragged little girl about 8 years old was leading him by one hand. In the other hand she carried a tin containing few coins. The silent man was tall and bony and one gnarled hand held a walking stick. After I placed enough money in the tin to feed them for a week, I felt it was more important to have contact with the old man. I placed my hand over his, on the cane, and left it there for a few moments – my way of embracing him. He flinched momentarily then spoke to the girl. She answered and they moved on – out of my life- but not before touching my heart.

Now I know this all sounds like I am a ‘goody-two-shoes’. I suppose I am in a way. But I am also kinda street smart and I can recognize a scammer. No-one wants to be taken for a sucker. Maybe on rare occasions I have been. But I would rather that than I develop a hard heart. We have to all make our own judgement calls. We shouldn’t place ourselves or our children in danger.

But I never forget, no matter what their circumstances – no matter how they look- or even sometimes, smell…we are all human beings.

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